Human, Social And Political Science @ King's, Cambridge in 2016

Interview format

1 interview (30 mins); discussion-based

Interview content

Entry exam discussed; emphasis on detailed explanations

Best preparation

Practise interviews if you can; take advantage of resources on YouTube

Final thoughts

Even though it seems scary, try to remain calm

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

My interview took place in early December. I had one interview, lasting around 30 minutes, with two interviewers. The interview was fairly informal but definitely mirrored the format of a supervision, in that they were interested in seeing my thinking process and wanted to see how I would handle discussion. I didn't have a test on the day but had taken an entry examination earlier in the year, which involved both critical thinking and an essay.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The interview began by discussing the essay that I had written in the entry examination taken in late October/early November. They first asked me to outline my argument and then began challenging this argument. The aim wasn't to reach a conclusion but to see how I could adapt my argument based on the new information given to me. We then moved onto a new topic. They wanted me to give detailed explanations and asked me questions on how my ideas might or might not work. After a good amount of time discussing this, they then asked me whether there was anything specific that I wanted to discuss. I chose to discuss a book I had read, which was directed towards one of the specialisms of HSPS. We discussed my thoughts on the book and they asked me some more questions on the opinions that I had formed on the book.

I remember feeling very nervous at the start of my interview, and my interviewers stated at the start that they wanted it to be more of a discussion, rather than the rough Cambridge interviews you hear about in the news. As the interview went on, I started to feel more confident and be able to express my views more clearly.

How did you prepare?

I think there's only a limited amount that you can prepare for the interview, as they more want to see how you think, rather than what you know. A teacher at my school organised a mock interview, which gave me good practice in expressing my viewpoint and academic discussion. I would really recommend creating a mock environment like this, whether it be with a teacher or parent. I would also often practice on my own, in that I would try and picture the types of questions they would ask me and see if I could come up with an argument.

In terms of reading, I revised the books that I had mentioned on my personal statement. I also found the mock interviews on YouTube quite useful: there are some produced by the university and some by YouTubers, such as Jake Wright.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

The interview process can be really scary and intimidating, especially when others may have had more advice and help. Don't let anyone else being interviewed psyche you out, as they might appear confident in their abilities but really everyone feels a bit terrified by the whole experience. Just try to stay as calm as possible and don't feel too much pressure to know everything and be super confident.